Lander Creates Interactive Website to Track Stalled Development Sites

Lander Creates Interactive Website to Track Stalled Development Sites

Looks to Turn Stalled Development from Local Blight into Community Benefit
 
Releases interactive map of 39 stalled developments in 39th Council District at www.stalleddevelopment.com


Brooklyn -- Councilmember Brad Lander today released an interactive map of vacant, stalled or abandoned development sites in his City Council district (Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, and Kensington).  The map is available online at www.stalleddevelopment.com where community members are encouraged to help track the status of the sites.

We need to make these sites into assets for the community,” said Lander.  “These developments cause real hazards for their neighbors—fences falling down on sidewalks, loose construction debris that can become deadly in high winds, and unsecured sites that are dangerous for children and an invitation to squatting.  We need to get a better handle on these sites, and to take action to convert local blight into community benefit.”

The sites in question are a range of half-built structures, abandoned foundations and vacant lots surrounded by plywood fencing.  Eleven currently have a stop-work order from the Department of Buildings.

Councilmember Lander is working to develop legislation and policy initiatives that would keep these sites safe, address the hazards and nuisances to neighbors, and put them on a path to productive uses that are a benefit to community residents.  Lander is calling for a three-point plan to:
  1. Impose a surcharge on vacant properties (including stalled development sites) that have a severe blighting effect on their surroundings;
  2. Strengthen the city’s ability to compel property owners to perform emergency repairs, complete them when the property owner is unable to, and to convert the cost of repairs into liens that are more easily foreclosable;
  3. Discourage speculation on troubled apartment buildings by changing state law to limit foreclosure auctions of multiple dwellings to responsible, credible bidders.
One site in Kensington, 23 Caton Place, has been a persistent problem in a low-rise, residential area.  The building was planned to be a 102-unit, 7-story condominium, but construction halted in 2008, leaving only the steel and concrete frame of the building.  The building has been foreclosed upon, the equity investors declared bankruptcy, and the bank that made the mortgage loan has been dissolved.  The senior lien on the building was purchased by Starwood Capital Group, a private investment firm.  Starwood has taken some action to secure the site, but has not yet indicated their future plans.

Thanks to local activism, the 23 Caton site is cleaner and safer, but it is still not an asset to the community," said Mandy Harris, founder of the Stable Brooklyn, the local neighborhood association. "We need Starwood Capital to work with us to figure out how to complete the building in such a way that it will be a welcome addition to our neighborhood. We hope that this new initiative by Councilmember Lander will help us get there."

Other sites of note:
  • 824 Friel Place was an unsecured site, with a half-completed foundation and no construction fence, that was being squatted and had become a nuisance and a danger to its neighbors.  After intervention by Councilmember Lander, Common Ground’s Street Outreach Program (funded by the NYC Department of Homeless Services) arranged for a shelter placement for the homeless individual on the site, and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) arranged for a new construction fence.  A new, affordable home will be built on the site through an existing HPD program.
  • 333 Carroll Street has a steel structure on top of the existing manufacturing building but no valid building permits.  The addition is out-of-compliance with the new Carroll Gardens Contextual Rezoning, which went into effect in 2009.
  • Two vacant, half-excavated sites at the corner of 6th Street at 4th Avenue – with construction fences taking up large portions of the block and pools of standing water – have made a moonscape out of a residential block.
The survey was conducted by volunteers in November 2009-January 2010 and found 39 sites that filed for construction or demolition permits and then halted work before completion.  Seventeen of these buildings have been classified as “stalled” by the Department of Buildings.  Dozens of district residents contributed tips about buildings and Department of Buildings records from 311 complaints to create this exhaustive list.

“Working together, community residents can help keep track of these sites and improve upon the information that is currently provided by the City,” said Rick Luftglass, a local resident who led the effort to assemble the data.  Councilmember Lander is encouraging people to provide feedback and help track the progress of developments in the 39th District at his website: www.stalleddevelopment.com.

“It’s encouraging to see an elected official innovating in a way that engages their constituents and makes it easier for their constituents to participate with government,” said Justin Krebs, Executive Director of Living Liberally and well-known new media organizer.   “It’s exciting to see an elected official use technology to embrace community feedback and hear from residents on a pressing issue.”

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